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Fracking earthquakes...

There has been a lot of talk in the national news about fracking, and we aren't talking about "special time" for “Battle Star Galactica” geeks. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking for short) is a process used in oil or gas drilling where water and other components are injected deep underground to fracture subterranian formations allowing natural gas to come to the surface. According to researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, there has been a significant increase in earthquakes in the middle of the United States compared to previous years.
 
The U.S. Geological Survey reports that for the three decades until the year 2000, seismic events across the middle of the nation averaged only 21 per year. Then in 2009 events jumps to 50 per year, in 2010 they increased to 87 per year, and then in 2011 there were 134 reported seismic events. Some are pointing to fracking as the reason for the increase in seismic events across the middle of the United States, which historically has very few seismic events. However, scientists believe that these seismic events are perhaps more related to wastewater disposal underground than fracking.
 
“Our scientists cite a series of examples for which an uptick in seismic activity is observed in areas where the disposal of wastewater through deep-well injection increased significantly,” David Hayes, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, said in a blog post yesterday, describing research by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey.
 
According to Haynes, the seismic events across the middle United States are generally "very small" and rarely cause damage. He also notes that not all instances of fracking or wastewater injection cause seismic issues. Fracking injects contents such as water and some chemicals, into the shale formations within the earth. The point is to break apart underground formations and free natural gas trapped there.

Hayes added, "We also find that there is no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing itself is the cause of the increased rate of earthquakes."
 
Bloomberg reports that much of that wastewater comes back to the surface and has to be disposed of. This is where the difference between hydraulically fractured wells and disposal injection wells comes into play. Disposal injection is taking the wastewater created from fracking and injecting it back underground.
 
Daniel Whitten, a spokesman for the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, told Bloomberg, "[There is] a difference between disposal injection wells and hydraulically fractured wells. There are over 140,000 disposal wells in America, with only a handful potentially linked to seismic activity."
 
However, he did point out that the industry is committed to monitoring the issue and working with authorities when there's a concern about seismic activity in an area. 

Source: Bloomberg



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Good thing?
By bobsmith1492 on 4/13/2012 12:05:43 PM , Rating: 4
As the earth's crust moves, pressure can build up along seismic fault lines. When it gets too big, it slips, and causes a big earthquake.

Perhaps our minor shake-ups are keeping things sliding along and helping prevent major stress build-ups that could result in large damaging quakes later.




RE: Good thing?
By Uncle on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By Mitch101 on 4/13/2012 1:06:09 PM , Rating: 5
There is a huge chance you will get your wish in Yellowstone since its a super volcano/caldera thats overdue and the ground has been rising quite a bit lately.


RE: Good thing?
By dgingerich on 4/13/2012 1:15:46 PM , Rating: 5
* "there" - location. "their" is for ownership.

Washington DC is really a beautiful city. It would be a shame to lose all those monuments and cherry trees. (The cherry trees were given to us by Japan back in 1912.) Let's just get rid of the people driving this country into the ground.


RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/13/2012 2:12:58 PM , Rating: 5
This is a tech site, where people are typically more educated. Thus, you'll often see people correcting each other on many things. Don't be insecure.


RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Good thing?
By lelias2k on 4/13/2012 5:51:50 PM , Rating: 2
If he was just pointing that out, I'd agree with you, but he made a very compelling point afterwards.

And while I try not to go on correcting people, I'm amazed at how bad Americans are with homophones in general.


RE: Good thing?
By torpor on 4/13/2012 6:25:12 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I'm amazed at how bad Americans are with homophones in general.

It's probably because we're so homophonphobic.

While I'm here, don't forget that the New Madrid fault promises to level much of the Midwest. It's not that there's no seismic activity, it just tends to be less severe than, oh, San Francisco.

Take Clintonville, WI. They've been having seismic events lately (duckduckgo for WI boom town) and are nowhere near any fracking operation. Clintonville is not exactly known for seismic activity....so it could also easily be coincidence.


RE: Good thing?
By teaman on 4/13/2012 6:07:16 PM , Rating: 5
* "typo's" is possessive. "typos" is for plurality.

Maybe you were baiting and I fell for it but I would have thought that when commenting on spelling/grammar, you would have to proofread your own...


RE: Good thing?
By sigmatau on 4/13/2012 6:38:14 PM , Rating: 2
LMAO!


RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/14/2012 10:17:19 AM , Rating: 2
ass

Pretty sure that is proper grammar to describe you.


RE: Good thing?
By FaaR on 4/15/2012 4:21:05 PM , Rating: 5
Punctuation fail.

A proper response would have been composed thusly:
"Ass."


RE: Good thing?
By retrospooty on 4/16/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good thing?
By dark matter on 4/15/2012 2:12:53 PM , Rating: 2
Your comma is superfluous.


RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/13/2012 7:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
It don't bother me none too much. When people correct me, I find it helpful.


RE: Good thing?
By DNAgent on 4/15/2012 12:06:57 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
where people are typically more educated


LOL...wait, are you serious?


RE: Good thing?
By ClownPuncher on 4/16/2012 3:45:32 PM , Rating: 2
Your "LOL" has me second guessing.


RE: Good thing?
By vol7ron on 4/13/2012 3:19:09 PM , Rating: 3
also include: "they're" - [they are] all in session, not "their all in session"


RE: Good thing?
By jimbojimbo on 4/13/2012 3:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Don't for get his their and they're mistake as well. Truly an idiot.


RE: Good thing?
By Dorkyman on 4/13/2012 8:00:45 PM , Rating: 3
And another thing.

Would this be a good time to talk about "its?"

Drives me nuts to see people typing "the dog and it's fleas."

"It's" means "It is." It's not possessive.

And I do wish people would use their spell chekurs.


RE: Good thing?
By ShaolinSoccer on 4/14/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good thing?
By faster on 4/14/2012 4:22:50 PM , Rating: 1
Ok uncle, you can expect the FBI anytime now. You don't say things like that in the police state of amerika.


RE: Good thing?
By mars2k on 4/13/2012 1:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
Fracking creates fissures across the rock strata and the methane trapped flows out. There is no way to control where the fissures open. If they propagate where the water table is then what happens to the water?
There a lots of places where oil wells were drilled. These wells were sunk thousands of feet deep and many crossed though water bearing rock strata. The oil depleted and the wells get capped but the holes are still there and the pipe casing for the well has long since rusted out. Residual oil, gas, and salt water now contaminate the fresh underground water.
So if you had a choice between methane or the only source of water available which would you choose?
We keep making long term decisions for short term solutions. Once the ground water is ruined it stays ruined even if the gas is depleted


RE: Good thing?
By Solandri on 4/13/2012 4:23:32 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
The oil depleted and the wells get capped but the holes are still there and the pipe casing for the well has long since rusted out. Residual oil, gas, and salt water now contaminate the fresh underground water.

While I agree with you that contamination from the fracking itself is an issue, you have a lot to learn about oil wells. You do not just sink a pipe into a ground.

An oil well is probably best described as a straw within a straw. The outer straw is made of metal casing held in place against the surrounding rock by cement. The inner straw is a metal pipe. When drilling, you send the bore and lubricants down the inner straw, and the dirt and muck come up the outer straw (the lubricant is cleaned and recycled because it's a helluva lot more expensive than oil). Later, oil comes up the outer straw. Only the very bottom part of the well lacks this cement and metal outer straw.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casing_%28borehole%29

Permanently "capping" a depleted oil well doesn't mean you just put a lid on it. It means you remove the inner straw, and fill the outer straw with mud and cement plugs (or sometimes cement all the way). The hole is not there anymore. The plug is not metal with a hole as you imply. It is cement - metal - cement with no hole.

The pressure differentials make it way too dangerous to leave any hole in a well you don't plan to use later. A well is like the weight of miles of dirt sitting atop a waterbed, pressurizing the water. If you drill a hole through that dirt and poke a hole in the bed, the water will squirt up through your hole. And you get the Deepwater Horizon blowout we had a couple years ago. They had oil coming up both the inner and outer straws, meaning they could not send heavy mud and fluid down the inner straw to repressurize the oil and stop its flow.


RE: Good thing?
By JediJeb on 4/13/2012 1:57:34 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Perhaps our minor shake-ups are keeping things sliding along and helping prevent major stress build-ups that could result in large damaging quakes later.


Could be a good thing. Living in the area of the New Madrid fault I know the history and that around 1812 one of the largest quakes to ever hit the US in recent history was centered here. Though since then the whole area has been rather quiet. These could be due to fracking, or they could be the signs that the fault is becoming stressed again. Hard to tell when we really only have a few hundred years of any kind of data on how the central US faults behave.

The other thing to ask is how do the number of quakes compare to the rest of the world where there is no fracking taking place? It may just be in how the news works now, but I have been hearing of quakes around the globe more often now than say 10 or 20 years ago. Inclusion of more data may change how the events are viewed.


RE: Good thing?
By Iketh on 4/13/2012 10:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
Also, except in a perfect world, what we're doing is TRANSFERRING the stress elsewhere... I'm curious where mid-US stress is most likely to migrate...


RE: Good thing?
By rs2 on 4/14/2012 3:10:44 AM , Rating: 3
That might be true, if we were fracking along existing natural fault-lines. However that's not the case.

I'd say that at best these man-made earthquakes have zero net effect on plate movement and earthquakes along natural seismic fault lines. At worst they may be increasing the frequency (but not the intensity) of natural earthquakes, if the man-made quakes are powerful/widespread enough to actually carry any amount of force/pressure to areas where natural fault lines exist.


RE: Good thing?
By ShieTar on 4/16/2012 4:33:31 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, conservation of energy would dictate that an increase in frequency should decrease intensity. Thus the above comments on why the increased number may be a "good thing".


By Arsynic on 4/13/2012 2:43:27 PM , Rating: 3
Co2 and fracking are now the two big, bad boogeymen that will come and get us if we don't switch to solar panels, windmills, and unicorn farts.




By dgingerich on 4/13/2012 2:58:06 PM , Rating: 3
according to the eco-nuts, we need to get nice, clean magic from Harry Potter. While we're at it, he needs to conjure up some food and health care for the poor. Obviously, we must have some wizards in the federal government to work the budget they want to work.


By gladiatorua on 4/14/2012 12:13:08 PM , Rating: 4
Oh Americans and your consumerism.
Drill some more. We'll see where it gets you.


By weskurtz0081 on 4/15/2012 10:33:34 AM , Rating: 2
What does consumerism have to do with drilling? Have you discovered a viable/affordable alternative to petroleum for creating plastics, fueling engines of all sorts, etc? Hell, I think most American's are all for not having to use oil/gas if we don't have to, but NO country has that luxury, not even the country YOU live in!


By JediJeb on 4/15/2012 8:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
viable/affordable alternative to petroleum for creating plastics


There is one of the big things nobody talks about when they want to reduce the use of petroleum. We can drive electric cars all we want, but they will use more and more plastics to make those cars, and all the other disposable and light weight products everyone uses without giving those a single thought.

Sure glass bottles are heavier,but they do not leach phthalates and BPA into their contents, and they can be recycled or even washed and reused. Also if they are put into a landfill they are inert compared to plastics that will break down and possibly contaminate the water system. How many other things could be done to save on petroleum usage. How about using metal instead of plastic to make computer/laptop cases, but wait, that would cost more money so no we can't do that. Even the "green" people who fight using coal, oil and such to power our lives will type out their blogs and such on a plastic computer, shave with a plastic disposable razor, use plastic combs and tooth brushes ect. There is just no way around using a lot of petroleum, well we could use soybean oil to make some of our plastics but then some would complain about using food for that.

Reducing our need for petroleum is not a simple thing, it is in fact a very complicated balancing act that will take a long time to do. Unless people are ready to revert most of their lifestyle back to what we had before the beginning of the 20th century it will take a huge leap in technology. We can return to using wood and natural textiles like leather,cotton, wool and linen for our furniture, clothing and other everyday needs, that is the easy way out. Just think, do you use plastic pictures for your water and other drinks or do you use glass or metal ones? Plastic plates and drinking glasses or porcelain and glass ones? It can be done, but everyone would need to make some definite life choices in how they live, even the ones who already think they are fighting the good fight.


By FITCamaro on 4/16/2012 9:06:02 AM , Rating: 2
Stop it! Stop using logic!


By Kaldor on 4/16/2012 1:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely! There is no room for logical common sense thinking anywhere on these articles....


Shouldn't this say....
By maveric7911 on 4/13/2012 12:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
Shouldn't this article title actually say the disposal of waste from fracking. Companies can either recycle the waste or go the cheaper route and pump it into the ground. The title is misleading in stating more the act of fracking is causing the problem which it is not "Or hasn't been proven to be".




RE: Shouldn't this say....
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 4/13/2012 12:12:45 PM , Rating: 2
Fixed!


RE: Shouldn't this say....
By Dorkyman on 4/13/2012 8:03:23 PM , Rating: 4
Good man. They could use you in Washington DC.


RE: Shouldn't this say....
By hiscross on 4/14/2012 8:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
FX might seem nice and all ( I work there), but reality, it needs some really big sink holes to het peoples attention. Just don't ride the metro.


OFF TOPIC:
By Mitch101 on 4/13/2012 12:00:09 PM , Rating: 3
OFF TOPIC: Firefox/Chrome might be popular but you need to fire up IE and open up a few article pages. The sites starting to look a bit of a mess under IE.




RE: OFF TOPIC:
By LSUJester on 4/13/2012 1:55:24 PM , Rating: 2
For curiosity's sake, I'm looking around in IE. I'm not seeing anything, any particular article?


RE: OFF TOPIC:
By AmbroseAthan on 4/13/2012 3:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm on IE 8 in my office (don't have another choice) and the comments section of every article is screwed up. They are still legible and the links all work, but the layout is broken and boxes/links run over each other.

It started at the beginning of this week or so.


RE: OFF TOPIC:
By aharris02 on 4/13/2012 4:33:10 PM , Rating: 2
I've been seeing the same thing on IE8 at the office this week.


The key problem with fracking
By Shig on 4/13/2012 3:37:13 PM , Rating: 3
Is water usage.

The main problem we saw with large ethanol usage was that you were taking a crop for food and animal feed to make liquid fuel.

In many places in the country fracking operators are outbidding farmers and livestock farmers for water. It's exactly the same problem, you're trading crops, livestock, and drinking water for liquid fuel.

After water has been used to frack, it is so poisoned it simply cannot be re-used again without extensive decontamination, which the frackers do not pay for.

Minor seismic events are the least of our problems related to 'unconventional drilling'.




RE: The key problem with fracking
By TSS on 4/13/2012 9:22:43 PM , Rating: 2
"disposing" of the wastewater by pumping it back into the ground is the most idiotic thing ever. Not only is pumping toxins into the ground stupid to begin with, pumping them so deep you're never ever going to get them out again is.. is...

Well that word hasn't been invented yet. But i'm sure our kids will find a good one though.


RE: The key problem with fracking
By JediJeb on 4/15/2012 8:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
The thing is most of those toxins come from petroleum, but where did the petroleum come from? Oh wait, it came from the same ground the waste is being pumped back into. I don't really agree with what they are doing, but so many people think of petroleum waste as something man made, but in actuality man doesn't make it he just moves it around.

It is similar to how they treat oil drilling off the west coast. You can't drill for oil off the coast of California in case you might spill some oil, yet there is oil constantly leaking from the sea floor because it is under so much pressure, yet would probably leak less if that pressure was released by pumping it out to use. Maybe it is a double standard, if nature pollutes it is, well, natural, if man pollutes it is unforgivable.


Indirect Cause
By drlumen on 4/13/2012 1:24:23 PM , Rating: 2
Having lived in West Texas for many years I have heard many theories about quakes (yes they have some minor ones there too). The consensus seems to be that it is the removal of oil, gas, water, etc... from the ground that creates voids. Those voids will occasionally collapse on a large scale creating small earthquakes.

While fracking would be an indirect cause of quakes, the resource they are removing is really the causal issue.




RE: Indirect Cause
By maveric7911 on 4/13/2012 1:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Actually that has not been proven or even in question. What the current investigation is about is the dumping of fracking waste "I suppose you could say pun intended for BSG fans lol".


RE: Indirect Cause
By drlumen on 4/13/2012 1:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I understand they are talking about the injection wells but if there weren't underground voids there would not be any space available for the waste.

Some injection wells do pump at high pressure but not high enough to directly cause quakes. That would a Lex Luthor type scenario. :)


I agree
By dgingerich on 4/13/2012 12:10:37 PM , Rating: 4
I've lived in Colorado for a long time. I'd never felt an earthquake here before, and I had only heard of one ever before. Then one happened that was big enough my parents felt it in their little town. Oddly enough, there had been fracking going on in the area.

Considering the situation, I do believe fracking can cause things like small earthquakes, groundwater contamination, and damage to the structure of the earth. Think about it: if you break up the structure of support under something, it will collapse, and the ground will move. This is kind of a "duh" thing. Inject chemicals down in the ground, it will, sooner or later, contaminate the ground water.

I'm not an eco nut. I don't believe CO2 is going to cause the world to be uninhabitable. However, I am against fracking. It's damaging, and it's dangerous to the people living in the area. it's generally not a good idea. We can get natural gas from other sources.




RE: I agree
By DiscoWade on 4/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: I agree
By dgingerich on 4/13/2012 12:44:53 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not talking about the methane in the water. I'm talking about the industrial lubricants and the chemicals used to break the rocks. They probably won't show up for years or decades, but the act of fracking leaves this stuff down in the ground. It will enter the water table sooner or later. Nothing stays buried, no matter how deep.


..
By InvertMe on 4/13/2012 12:25:17 PM , Rating: 2
What the frack!?




Helloo...
By bbcdude on 4/13/2012 4:59:59 PM , Rating: 2
This is deep well injection, not fracking. There is a huge difference.

It is one of the most common methods of oil production in the world. They pump waste products (mostly salty water seperated from oil or gas) down old wells to increase production from old fields.

I live in the middle of a oilfield that has been doing this for 70 years. Not exactly something new.

So in this case a new area started this and there was an increase of small quakes (only in this area)......so stop in that area. Don't pretend this has anything to do with fracking or indicates a risk for anywhere but the area investigated. The only tie to fracking is that some of the liquid injected was old fracking waste.




Helloo...
By bbcdude on 4/13/2012 5:02:53 PM , Rating: 2
This is deep well injection, not fracking. There is a huge difference.

It is one of the most common methods of oil production in the world. They pump waste products (mostly salty water seperated from oil or gas) down old wells to increase production from old fields.

I live in the middle of a oilfield that has been doing this for 70 years. Not exactly something new.

So in this case a new area started this and there was an increase of small quakes (only in this area)......so stop in that area. Don't pretend this has anything to do with fracking or indicates a risk for anywhere but the area investigated. The only tie to fracking is that some of the liquid injected was old fracking waste.




Helloo...
By bbcdude on 4/13/2012 5:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
This is deep well injection, not fracking. There is a huge difference.

It is one of the most common methods of oil production in the world. They pump waste products (mostly salty water seperated from oil or gas) down old wells to increase production from old fields.

I live in the middle of a oilfield that has been doing this for 70 years. Not exactly something new.

So in this case a new area started this and there was an increase of small quakes (only in this area)......so stop in that area. Don't pretend this has anything to do with fracking or indicates a risk for anywhere but the area investigated. The only tie to fracking is that some of the liquid injected was old fracking waste.




By SilthDraeth on 4/13/2012 5:21:02 PM , Rating: 2
Both the wife and I had just read the Headline, and thought... "Condoms are causing earthquakes?"

What the frack!

I am glad you through the BSG disclaimer in there, though I want to know, was fracking used to describe hydraulic fracturing before or after BSG used the term?




magnitude 4
By stardude692001 on 4/13/2012 11:38:37 PM , Rating: 2
what this article doesn't say is these events are around magnitude 4 on the scale or to small for humans to even feel.




Deceptive article title
By LBID on 4/16/2012 3:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
After the title of the article leads you to believe that there is an endorsement of the idea of fracking = earthquakes, there's one small sentence in the middle that stands out:

quote:
Hayes added, "We also find that there is no evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracturing itself is the cause of the increased rate of earthquakes."


Way to bring in the click-bait. /golfclap




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